November 23, 2021
Thankfully, most hospice patients will never experience significant bleeding. That said, when it does occur in can be extremely traumatic. Patients with end-stage renal or liver disease, cancer (especially head/neck and large lung tumors), and those receiving anticoagulation are at higher risk for serious bleeding. OnePoint’s Clinical Symptom Guide, now in its 3rd edition, details numerous drug therapy options for treating bleeding, and in the future, we may be adding another option with quite an unusual and interesting backstory behind its development.
It’s inherently difficult to create a seal on bleeding tissue, since it’s a wet environment and blood is a liquid made up of many different cells – the blood (and cells) needs to be moved out of the area for a tight seal to be made. To combat this issue, clever researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found inspiration in nature from a creature that has no problem with adhesion in a wet environments – barnacles.
Barnacles are able to securely stick to surfaces like rocks, the sides of ships, and slimy animals in wet, dirty, and turbulent surroundings. To do so, they secrete sticky proteins that are suspended in an oil that repels water and contaminants, which paves the way for proteins to attach to the surface. The MIT glue, which can potentially seal wounds within 15-30 seconds after applications, incorporates these aspects of barnacle physiology into an existing surgical adhesive, with an end product that looks and feels like a cloudy white toothpaste.
To date, their barnacle-inspired glue has been tested in rats and pigs with very promising results. It still needs to be tested in humans, but researchers are optimistic that this is truly a game changer.1 Someday, it can hopefully be used to prevent traumatic bleeding deaths in our hospice patients!
Joe Solien, PharmD, BCPP, BCGP
VP of Clinical Services